"But Wait! There’s More!"

Sermon May 3, 2015

Acts 10:44-48, John 15:9-17

“But Wait! There’s More!”

 

It’s kind of a bummer that the Acts reading jumps to the conclusion without explaining how we got there. The tenth chapter of Acts is fascinating. I’m going to summarize it so that the reading today makes a bit more sense, but I’d love for you to read this story for yourself. Remember that Acts is the story of the early church growing like wildfire. It began as a pretty unorganized movement. They didn’t have any bylaws or committees that we know of, but they were trying to figure out how to be the church. They were so steeped in beliefs that some should be in and others should be out, that they weren’t sure what to do with all of these people who showed up asking to join the movement.

 

In the Pentecost story there are people from all over who speak many different languages. When the Spirit shows up and blows through the room, ALL are touched by this event. ALL are able to understand in their own language. ALL are welcomed into this crazy new beginning.

 

The part you didn’t hear this morning is the part about Peter’s dream. Peter is praying on the roof when he gets hungry. There are no pizza deliveries on roofs so while he ponders what to do; he has a dream-like vision in which a sheet is lowered with all kinds of creatures on it. A voice tells him to kill one of these and eat it. Peter refuses three times because he is a righteous man and only eats what is pure. Three times he is told, “what God has made, you must not call profane.” Then some men sent by Cornelius, a faithful gentile, come to ask Peter to return with them. Peter goes and meets Cornelius. He tells them that he is learning that God shows no partiality and goes on to tell them about Jesus. This is where the reading picks up today…the Spirit comes to all who are gathered. Peter realizes that even those Gentiles can be baptized. With that, the circle of the early church expands a bit more.

 

Peter was a good man who really took following God seriously. He didn’t eat impure things. He only associated with the right people. He didn’t let just anyone into the circle because he believed that was what God wanted. He wasn’t trying to be exclusive; he was trying to be faithful. Then along comes God…

 

I keep having images of one of those infomercials…buy this magic tape that will seal anything for 29.99. But wait! There’s more! If you buy the tape today, we will throw in an extra roll and you can tape anything you want. But wait! There’s more! If you buy it in the next hour, we will throw in a set of knives! But wait! There’s more! If you add $5.00 to your order, we will throw in a toaster! But wait! There’s more! We want you to be able to use that toaster so we will throw in a loaf of bread. But wait! There’s more! You see how this goes. Some of you may remember those infomercials. I’m not sure why everything came with a set of knives, but the ploy must of have worked for them to keep running those awful commercials. There is a whole Wikipedia site devoted to the man known for “But wait! There’s more!” It’s the Ronco man Ron Popeil. He is known for marketing and even inventing in some cases the Chop-O-Matic, Dial-O-Matic, and the Veg-O-Matic. He managed to convince people that life was a real disappointment without these amazing products.

 

I am not trying to portray God as a marketer or an infomercial, but I kept imagining that phrase, “But wait! There’s more!” As God shows the early church how to be the church…

 

          When the Spirit comes bringing chaos at Pentecost, Peter recalls the prophet Joel who says that all will dream dreams and see visions.

          People respond “That sounds interesting. What do we do next?”

          Peter tells them they can repent and be baptized.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          You can sell your possessions, share your meals and care for all who are in need.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          You can take the message of my love to everyone - of course you may be beaten and imprisoned for doing so.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          If you keep teaching and spreading the word about me, you can be stoned.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          You can welcome a eunuch into the community.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          Go and convert Saul who kills people like you.

          “But wait! There’s more!”

          Go and welcome the gentiles into the community.

          (And that’s just the first ten chapters of Acts!)

 

I don’t know what your yes to God looks like, but I’m guessing we think we have some idea what we are signing on to when we say yes. We may wonder how hard it can be. After all, it sounds so lovely to abide with Jesus. The early followers seemed to say yes pretty easily and then discovered that it was much harder than they realized.

 

I am not trying to say that God is trying to dupe us into believing that following is easy. I’m saying that I think we can only say yes to so much and we tend to believe it will be pretty easy. It is in our living the yes that we find our hearts expanded. God keeps asking us to open to those people (you fill in the blank). When we find the one we would rather disregard or ignore, God comes along to say, “But wait! There’s more! That person or that group is welcome in me.”

 

When we say we will follow God, we wonder if we can just give a little bit. Do we get credit for that? Is there a cliffs notes version of discipleship? Is there a way to avoid certain people or certain tasks? It is hard to believe that this loving God would want us to be uncomfortable.

These texts were written in a time when people were in great danger if they followed Jesus. In the gospel lesson, Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples. I imagine him trying to figure out how to tell them that they thought it was hard when he was around…just wait until he’s gone. He’s trying to give them every shot at this. He explains that what they are going to need more than anything is love. He’s not telling them to sit around and feel all soft and squishy toward each other. He’s telling them to do love, to show love, to be love. He’s telling them that this is going to cost more than they dreamed, but he’s promising if they will stay grounded in him and this love they have shared, it will be more than enough. He knows that they are going to need love more than ever before to continue.

 

I wonder if it was love that enabled Peter to persevere when he began to get messages that went against what he knew about who was in and who was out. Was it love that allowed him to continue to expand his circle of welcome? Jesus tells us that if we love, we will bear fruit that lasts. I’m thinking it is a way of telling us that doing love will impact the world beyond our capacity to imagine. I also think we should be warned…

If we love these people, we may feel pretty good about it and then hear the words:

“But wait! There’s more!”

We may sigh and love some more and then hear:

“But wait! There’s more!”

 

I believe that if we keep loving and expanding our circle, we will know God’s love in a way we never have before. Right now, this very minute, there are people who need to be loved. “But wait! There’s more!”